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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

join me at the table

With dark clouds forming over the village we make our way down the steep hill.

Down below groups of people surround the town hall and smoke rises from a bonfire. Our market bag filled with plates, cutlery and glasses clink against my black dress.

Once we're down young men give us plastic white cups filled with Pastis, a liquorice flavored alcohol served with water before dinner. Our tongues growing numb from the strong aperitif, we make our way inside to find seats at one of the long tables with paper tablecloths. Families have marked their names on where they're eating, and we find a place in the middle of two families.

Soon we're talking with all of those around us. The man beside my mother has five children from three mothers. His friend leans over when he talks to me, boasting about his visit to Montreal and something to do with working in films. Wine in old water bottles start to arrive at our tables, and two men with acordians work their way around everyone chanting and clapping.

Villagers dressed in red t-shirts move quickly around the tables to feed the crowd of around 500 that have gathered for the feast. The first course is melon, nothing fancy, but the melon is fresh, aromatic, and the perfect way to start a meal. The stranger next to my mother has no knife, so he borrows her, and it seems we're all comfortable with each other within moments. Even the man with a mustache a few seats down starts to amuse himself by flinging bits of bread with his knife up and down the table. I shake my finger at him and laugh.

The main course is sausage, which has been roasted over the open fire, and large pots of aligot, the famous potato cheese concoction of the area. The aligot itself is a presentation, with a man making a point of showing how high up he can pull the stringy substance in the air with his paddle. The crowds cheer, and photos are taken all around.

I have no stomach for red meat, but the man beside my mother happily takes my sausage, as I stare in amazement as the locals dig into seconds and thirds of sausage and aligot, passionate about eating, drinking, and celebrating summer. I watch them dreamily, elated to be in a country where food is so deeply appreciated.

I fill up happily on bread, melon, fresh salad, local wine and eventually a perfect apple tart. When we leave we say goodnight to all of those around us, the strangers who have smiled and spoken with us all night.

It was a perfect evening, a feast with all the right ingredients.

Back at home, as my mother falls asleep in the next room, I brew pots of plum jam and fall deeper in love country life.

yvonne and claire
town feast


Anonymous LauraChristine said...

Hi Gill,
I love your posts about food, they are my favourite by far...the passion with which you write about it makes me want to cook more and try new flavours and styles. Hope you are having a wonderful sensual food experience in france, as always. I would love it if you could keep posting recipes and food ideas - you have inspired me to get back into sushi for one...and I'm so happy about that!
Laura :)

5:34 PM  
Blogger ayahthetiger said...

woah! when you mentioned the aligot and the man with the paddle, i imagined him lifting it pretty high, but not that high. that's pretty impressive.

ps. i love you.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Ro-ho said...

This looks like alien cheese to me. But, I LOVE CHEESE - bring some home si vous plait!

5:46 AM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Laura- Thank you so much! There's no greater gift than actually having someone ask me to talk about food more often!

Ayah- It was quite the show, and I really do love you too.

Roho- It's potatoes and cheese, and I'm not quite sure what cheese they use or how my suitcase would smell if I tried to bring some home...

10:27 AM  

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